Draft Juneau Economic Plan Released

Downtown Juneau. (Creative Commons photo by Lena LeRay)
Downtown Juneau. (Creative Commons photo by Lena LeRay)

Does this list sound familiar?

  • Enhance Essential Infrastructure
  • Build the Senior Economy
  • Attract and Prepare the Next Generation Workforce
  • Recognize and Expand Juneau’s Position as a Research Center
  • Build on Our Strengths
  • Protect and Enhance Juneau’s Role as Capital City
  • Revitalize Downtown
  • Promote Housing Affordability and Availability

Those are the eight broad initiatives discussed in the draft Juneau Economic Plan, developed by the McDowell Group and Sheinberg Associates for the Juneau Assembly. The plan is intended to guide the capital city’s financial future for the next decade. Most of the initiatives and specific goals discussed in the plan have been city priorities for years.

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“We are in pretty good shape as community economically,” says Jim Calvin with the McDowell Group.

“(We have) relatively high per capita and household incomes, and strong visitor industry, strong mining industry. We have a lot of great assets to build on,” Calvin says. “So I think we’re coming at this from a position of strength as a community, which is certainly better than venturing into economic development when you’re in recession or otherwise struggling.”

Each initiative discussed in the plan includes specific goals or objectives for city officials to work on. Some of those are long-discussed city priorities as well: A second bridge to Douglas Island, expanding the availability of childcare and increasing the number of starter homes to name a few.

Calvin says these issues have long been barriers to economic growth in Juneau.

“Housing is a case in point,” he says. “It’s really a fundamental, underlying foundation for Juneau’s economy, and we at the moment have a housing market that’s acting as a constraint on economic development.”

The draft economic plan was released Wednesday on the web. Calvin will present details to the Juneau Assembly on Monday.

The specifics shouldn’t come as a shock to the Assembly members, who’ve been receiving periodic updates on the project for almost a year. Mayor Merrill Sanford says the next step is to adopt the plan and implement its recommendations.

“There’s a lot of good goals and a lot of good objectives,” Sanford says. “We’re going to have to prioritize them and figure out which ones we need to do first.”

Sanford thinks the $100,000 the city spent on the plan was worth it.

“It just puts everything into perspective and says, ‘Assembly members, here are the things, some of the things that you’ve been working on diligently, trying to get accomplished.’ It backs those up and supports them. And then it’s given us a couple of other avenues to go down to get to an end result,” Sanford says.

The mayor says the Assembly hopes to adopt the plan by the end of February.